Earlier their month authors T. Colin Campbell and Howie Jacobson released their new book Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, in many ways a follow up to Campbell’s earlier book The China Study. (Editor’s note: both of those are affiliate links)
We took the time to interview Jacobson below so you could get a sense of main points and storyline of the book.
Brian Toomey: For people who didn’t read Dr Campbell’s previous book, The China Study, can you summarize it very briefly?
Howie Jacobson: The China Study focuses on the evidence that tells us the whole foods, plant-based diet is the healthiest human diet.
From laboratory studies with rats and mice, to population-based studies such as the massive China Study, to decades of medical research showing that human beings can prevent, reverse, and heal cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease by switching to a diet of mostly plants in as close to their natural state as possible.
BT: What is the focus of Whole, and the main thing you want readers to take away from reading it?
HJ: Whole explores the question of why contemporary science simply can’t see the overwhelming evidence favoring a plant-based diet.
I think of the structure of Whole like a whodunit: who killed the common sense approach to health and food and policy that any sane person would embrace, and replaced it with a warped alternate reality that leads to and rationalizes obesity, disease, disability, early death, poverty, starvation, and environmental destruction.
We finger two culprits in Whole: the reductionist paradigm that has turned most of science into a myopic, fundamentalist pursuit of trivia at the expense of the big picture, and the immense and subtle power wielded by big business to maintain that paradigm and keep the rest of us confused and compliant.
Here’s the main takeaway: pretty much all our human problems are caused or worsened by this system, and we can’t solve these problems unless we embrace a more wholistic approach. Which requires freeing our minds from the lies and half-truths created by indentured scientists, paid for by industry, sanctioned by government, mindlessly reported and repeated by media, and accepted passively and unquestioningly by the masses.
If you want to solve the health crisis, the animal cruelty crisis, the environmental crises (from global warming to aquifer depletion to air and water pollution and well beyond), the poverty crisis, and the breakdown of real community, then you need to see the Whole System.
And central to that system is the food we eat.
BT: is reductionism, and how does it relate to how we think about health?
HJ: Reductionism is a way of looking at the world that says, “The whole equals the sum of its parts.” Therefore, if you can understand all the bits of the world in isolation from one another, you can understand the whole.
That’s a bit like saying you can look at a person’s DNA and know everything about them. Anything that you can’t know from the DNA – their personality, the beauty of their smile, the depth of their passion, their great kindness – doesn’t really exist. And if it does, it certainly isn’t worthy of study.
When we think about health and nutrition this way, we make a number of tragic mistakes.
We train doctors to ignore nutrition and see disease as something random that just “strikes” one day.
We prefer unnatural drugs with unavoidable negative side effects to natural approaches that work more broadly, profoundly, and often, more quickly.
We think we can achieve “health in a bottle” by taking supplements that contain what we assume are the “active” ingredients in unimaginably complex foods like apples and carrots.
We refuse to fund the study the wholistic effects of proper nutrition because we can’t find a single cause-effect mechanism, so we don’t think of such research as “real science.”
And we treat each problem – individual, social, and environment – as an isolated phenomenon rather than as a symptom of a distorted system. So each “solution” comes with its own side effects, or unintended consequences, that require additional solutions in turn.
The cumulative effects turn the engine of profit for the few while leading to illness and misery for the many.
BT: What are the main findings you would want people to know about healthcare around the world, as it relates to both medicine and diet?
HJ: There’s no real question that lifestyle is the most significant determinant of health and disease in the Western world. Health doesn’t come from a bottle, it comes from the daily decisions about what foods we put in our mouths, how we move our bodies, and what we think about.
Truly healthy societies don’t get that way because of their “disease-care systems” (that is, what’s available when someone has already gotten a disease). Instead, they enable and support lifestyles that promote health.
When we look at populations around the globe, we see very clearly that rates of disease vary based on how much processed food and how much animal-based food they consume.
The closer a society is to a whole food, plant-based diet, the healthier, longer-living, and more vigorous its members.
And through studies of twins and immigrants, we know that lifestyle has a far greater impact on health than genetics.
HJ: Consume plant-based foods in forms as close to their natural state as possible (“whole” foods). Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Avoid heavily processed foods and animal products. Stay away from added salt, oil, and sugar. Aim to get 80 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 10 percent from fat, and 10 percent from protein.
BT: What is a quick summary for holistic thinking about science in general you could leave readers of this blog with?
HJ: If we want to create a sustainable world, then we need to embrace and promote holistic thinking. Another word for this is “systems thinking.”
Many sustainability advocates are familiar with permaculture, which is perhaps the ultimate in systems thinking. Permaculturalists seek to create systems that can thrive based on the higher logic of their own complexity and diversity, rather than relying on constant human management and control.
Our own bodies are unimaginably complex creations made up of unimaginably complex organs which are made up of unimaginably complex cells, and so on down to molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles.
Each of us is part of a complex family structure, a community, a society, an ecosystem, a biosphere, a planetary family, a solar system, a galaxy, and so on to infinity.
Any science that does not tremble in awe and wonder and appreciation for these vast wholes within wholes, and does not attempt to relate its detailed discoveries back to these wholes for meaning and context, cannot help us move to a more just, healthy, and sustainable world.
Brian Toomey is the owner of JB Web Analytics, and an occasional contributor to sustainablog.
By now you’ve heard the story of a food system in shambles. It has been tweeted, posted, blogged, and Caused. The tale continues to grow as more voices join in to tell it. If you are paying attention, you realize that one ending to this story is a crash landing so scary that it’s no surprise so many of us prefer to keep our eyes closed. If you’re like us though, your blood is boiling and you’re ready for action.
It’s okay – go ahead and throw a fit, punch a pillow, and get angry. Be irate about the fact that the fate of agriculture (and your health) currently rests in the hands of Monsanto and a powerful few. It should enrage you even more that they’ve been aided with your tax dollars by our own US State Department, despite resistance to GMOs from a growing army of amazing people concerned with the food they eat and how it is grown – people just like you. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. You are a critical piece of the groundswell of discontent that is gaining critical mass. Perhaps your passion to make a difference has prompted you to join the masses and March Against Monsanto.
Before you grab your pitchfork and head down to the rally, I’d like to offer you another perspective, an alternative ending to this story. To do anything less would be a violation of one of Waste Farmers’ most cherished values: don’t be afraid to take the contrarian point of view.
The food system will never be repaired by protesting and lobbying for change, no matter how noble the intentions or loud our voices.
Solutions will not be found by changing institutions. It has to start with taking direct responsibility for the stewardship of the soil and producing our own food in whatever capacity that we are able. Access to healthy food isn’t something that has been taken from us by the institution. It is a distant memory that we as individuals have suppressed in our collective quest for progress – a memory that need only be reawakened by the scent of good soil and the work of our own two hands.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. As a company seeking solutions to mend a broken agricultural system, we feel that it is important to understand our past to know where we are headed. Perhaps, like the horses in the famous Seinfeld joke, we will find that they are one and the same. Indeed, we may have come all this way just to find that where we started was the right place after all.
Starting 10,000 years ago and mastered over the last century, science and technology have “freed” us from work on the farm. Our nation’s food producers have done a superb job of stocking supermarket shelves—so much so that the majority of us have fled our farms and outsourced our nutrition to a powerful few. We’ve grown in number and moved closer together, but in many ways we are farther apart, more indentured, and less secure than ever before. In the name of progress, we abandoned the farm, lost the very freedom we sought to enhance, and displaced a part of ourselves in the process. Now we find ourselves alone in crowded concrete cities, cut off from our past, unclear about the future, and dependent upon a centralized food system to sustain us.
Maybe we run so hard because we are afraid that if we get off, the giant machine might stop and we won’t know life without it. This fanatical race, this journey, this industrial complex has led us back to the same place we’ve forgotten, but to which we’ve longed to return: agriculture.
It’s ironic. Agriculture marked humanity’s separation from nature, aided and abetted by the alluring promise of technology, setting the course for our present trajectory. But just as agriculture and technology have separated us from nature, we believe that they can help to reconnect us. The seeds of change are firmly planted and shifting winds bring with them the promise of a new season. As we move forward, let the legacy of agribusiness be a cautionary reminder to future generations that the appropriate place for agriculture rests not in the industrial system where it can be controlled by a specialized few, but rather one participated in by and for the people.
Agriculture, by its very nature, IS nature. As such, it can never conform to the kind of specialization required for industrialization. Sustainable agricultural systems, by definition, are those that work with nature. Nature’s wisdom is the interconnection to all things and diversity is its strength. Diversity requires small-scale attention, which can’t be properly fostered in the centralized agro-industrial models. An ecological approach to agriculture favors the small stakeholder and has the power to decentralize the food system once again.
So at last, there is hope. Hope resting at the heart of what was forgotten in the quest to make life better, people. On our quest to repair the broken food system, we’ve realized that it has to start in our own back yard. We need to provide each individual with everything they need to participate in their own food production at home. Food production can be personal, utilize small areas, and produce complete diets like they have for so much of our past. Armed with a new set of technological tools, like those provided through social media, it has the power to connect neighbors so people can help one another build gardens, trade produce, learn person to person, and tell stories. If we begin with the individual, the paradigm shift will naturally flow to families, neighborhoods, communities and ultimately into the broader culture.
That is the genesis of our Maxfield’s line of products. Everything we make is designed with intention to empower the farmer in each of us with tools to nurture our gardens and the earth, sustain ourselves, and share our bounty with our communities.
By leveraging technology to help change the way we look at the world, create a new set of values, and transfer knowledge from one individual to the next, we can offer new ways to empower individuals to grow more of their own food. This is not a step backward as Monsanto wants us believe; rather a quantum leap forward towards a world where food is everyone’s business and nature and people matter.
An age of abundance is on the horizon, and the pathways that will lead us there are as natural as the food systems we must depend on. Humans are creatures of story. The messages we paint on the walls of Facebook are no different than shapes our ancestors painted on the walls of caves. As fellow Waste Farmers team member, cosmic journeyman, and soil shaman Matt Celesta says,
We can create an authentic experience through food. We can tell a story through our taste buds. With agriculture we can tell a story while we are eating and living. I want to tell the story of the beet I’m eating, just like the hunter tells the story of the elk. I want my food to be sacred. We can’t just live on bread alone—we need the celebration, too. The celebration gives us sustenance for our souls.
When we grow our own food in good soil, we grow a part of ourselves. The gardens we cultivate not only nurture our bodies, they feed our souls.
No longer can we waste another ounce of energy blaming governments and corporations. They are simply the manifestations of the values that we hold as its members. Instead, let’s harness that energy and reclaim what is rightfully ours. What better place to start than our gardens?
So grab your pitchfork and head to the streets, speak your mind, express yourself. When you are done, march home, tend your garden, and celebrate your harvest. Occupy your backyard and make your statement the most powerful of all: civil disobedience through self-reliance. Let the revolution begin!
What story to do you have to tell? Connect with us on Facebook, post a picture of your garden on our page and share your story of reconnecting with us.
John-Paul Maxfield is the Founder of Waste Farmers, the parent company of Maxfield’s. The Company started in 2009 with $9,000 and a belief that idealism and capitalism can coexist. Today Waste Farmers has evolved into an innovator respected by leaders in the global community for developing simple solutions to the complex problems of modern agriculture and food security. The knowledge and experience behind Waste Farmers has been many years in the making as John-Paul comes from a family of agricultural leaders who have been pioneers in farming and ranching since the 19th century.
By Tory Field and Beverly Bell
Part 15 of the Harvesting Justice series
The Food Chain Workers Alliance has a goal of nothing less than full rights and fair wages for the 20 million workers who grow, harvest, process, pack, ship, cook, serve, and sell food in the US. Founded in 2009, the Alliance brings together 11 organizations representing workers throughout the food supply chain. It is organizing across sectors, building solidarity between workers in different industries. It is pushing for policy changes and educating and activating consumers so that we can all better align our food purchases with our principles. The Alliance also draws attention to the ways in which institutional racism in the US and around the world has produced a food system reliant on the exploitation of immigrants and people of color.
The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) is one of the founding members of the Alliance. Started in New York City, the organization’s original aim was to help find new jobs for workers who had been employed at Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center that collapsed on September 11, 2001. This mission quickly expanded to changing working conditions throughout the entire restaurant industry. In 2008, a national office, ROC United, was launched, which has since helped replicate the model in eight other places: Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Michigan, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Houston.
“The restaurant industry is the largest private sector employer in the US,” said Jose Oliva, ROC’s national policy coordinator. “It is in the position of creating the conditions, setting the tone, setting the standard, for the entire sector, not just the service sector which has now become the core of our new economy, but for the entire private sector.” If food workers could exercise their power, added Jose, they could improve not only their own working conditions but also other aspects of the food system, from environmental impacts and animal rights to food quality for consumers.
ROC has won numerous campaigns against unjust restaurants, forcing them to change their practices. Their current campaign focuses on the world’s largest full-service restaurant group, Darden, which owns Capital Grille, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and others. In 2012, ROC filed a lawsuit against the company for racial discrimination and wage theft. The organization is also leading a charge to raise the federal minimum wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at $2.13 for more than 20 years. Over the years, ROC has led and won 13 campaigns against exploitation in high-profile restaurant companies, securing improvements in grievance procedures, raises, sexual harassment policies, sick days, job security, and anti-discrimination policies.
ROC is also making the public aware of what happens behind the scenes at restaurants. They have published in-depth reports and a new book, Behind the Kitchen Door, about working conditions, racism, and sexism in the industry.
Other compelling initiatives for food workers’ rights include:
Here are some ways you can support food, farm, and restaurant workers organizing for better working conditions:
Download the Harvesting Justice pdf here, and find action items, resources, and a popular education curriculum on the Harvesting Justice website. Harvesting Justice was created for the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, check out their work here.
Copyleft Other Worlds. You may reprint this article in whole or in part. Please credit any text or original research you use to Tory Field and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.
Reclaimed wood is one of the hottest eco-friendly trends to come out of the interior design world. With products like reclaimed wood flooring and veneer paneling, the options and uses available with this type of lumber are limited only by your imagination. By learning more about this type of eco-friendly material, you can make educated decisions about the home design products you choose.
On many occasions, old lumber gets discarded simply because a person or company doesn’t have a use for it. The truth is that much of this lumber is still usable – and in many cases, it is stronger and more durable than virgin wood. When someone makes the effort to collect the used lumber and fix it up for repurposing, it becomes reclaimed wood.
The reclaiming process starts by collecting discarded lumber that’s no longer needed. These sources can include:
After harvesting the wood, salvage crews separate it from other materials, such as nails. They recycle the products they don’t need to keep waste at a minimum and sort the wood according to quality. Low-grade wood becomes bio-fuel or firewood, while the premium pieces get processed.
Processing involves cleaning the lumber, drying it in a kiln and milling it so it looks beautiful. At this stage, the reclaimed lumber is ready for installation and finishing.
If you can build something with virgin wood, there’s a good chance you can also build it with reclaimed wood. Some of the more popular uses for reclaimed timber in homes and offices consist of:
Flooring. Reclaimed wood flooring comes in several different blends – from light to dark and refined to rustic – so you’ll always find something that matches your style.
Tables. Tabletops made from reclaimed lumber are gorgeous, durable and affordable. The characteristics of the wood are so interesting to look at that you won’t want to use a tablecloth. Reclaimed lumber is also great for counter tops.
Decking. Some blends of reclaimed wood come from tropical forests, so they naturally withstand water, humidity and the sun’s heat. This strength means they’ll have no problem enduring heavy foot traffic. Look for a company that offers reclaimed wood deck boards with eased edges or a hidden clip system so installation is a cinch.
Veneer paneling. With the veneer-making tools available today, a reclaimed lumber specialist has no problem making veneer wood paneling from this eco-friendly material. Use veneer panels for cabinetry, walls, desks or the front of a reception counter.
In the U.S., the norm is to buy products and materials that are new, but choosing reclaimed over virgin wood offers the following benefits:
If you’re looking to purchase reclaimed wood instead of sourcing it yourself, look for a company that’s certified by the Rainforest Alliance and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). With these certifications, you can trust that the company sells products that are genuinely green and that the materials were harvested using sustainable methods.
This post was contributed by Viridian Reclaimed Wood, a company that is owned and operated in Portland, Oregon and provides eco-friendly, unique and affordable reclaimed wood flooring, veneer, paneling, tables & counters across the nation.
If you’ve spent any amount of time here at sustainablog, you know we’re big fans of reuse: recycling’s great and all, but why add more energy and material to an item’s footprint if it can be repurposed or upcycled? So I was definitely drawn to the story of Alex Eaves and his company Stay Vocal, which creates “new” t-shirts out of shirts that have, at the very least, been created for other uses… in some cases, they’re pre-owned (and, thus, pre-worn).
Alex is very good at putting together events for exposing people to the joys and possibilities of reuse: a few years ago, I wrote about his “Reuse and Schmooze” tour over at the Sundance Channel. He’s going back on tour this Summer, and, this time, he wants to make a movie about the ideas for reuse he picks up from other people. I’ll let him explain:
So, yes, he’s got a Kickstarter campaign going. Time is getting short – six days – and he still has a bit over $5000 to raise to support the tour and film. Got a few bucks you can kick in to help spread the word about reuse? I’m sure he’d be grateful…
As you might imagine, we’re always on the lookout for cool reuse ideas, too; if you’ve got ‘em, share ‘em… in the comments.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, heating water doesn’t consume quite as much energy as it did twenty years ago. It does still represent over 17% of the average home’s energy consumption, though, so any increases in efficiency will make a difference in energy use and electricity bills. There are a lot of different types of water heaters on the market, though, so how do you know which one will work most efficiently for your living environment?
Our friends at The Home Depot put together this infographic to give you all the information you need on water heaters and efficiency in one place. Of course, looking for the ENERGY STAR label is a good way to start period, but other factors will play into creating the biggest bang for your buck.
Bought a new water heater lately? How did efficiency figure into your purchase? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments…
Water and forests are among the most precious natural resources on the planet. Unfortunately, they are consumed at an increasingly fast pace. Learning to reduce our consumption is crucial to the preservation of these vital resources. Here are a few simple tips to help you save on water and paper daily.
Take a shower instead of a bath. If you don’t linger in the shower for a half hour, it is the most ecological option. A five-minute showers will use between 30 and 80 liters of water, while a bath needs about 175.
Don’t leave the water running when you wash your hands or your teeth. If you brush your teeth for three minutes with the water running, that’s at least 15 liters of wasted water!
Fill a water bottle and place it in the tank of your toilet. That way, you’ll reduce the amount of water used for flushing, without making the process any less effective. DO NOT place bricks, as you may have heard. Bricks could slowly disintegrate and clog you plumbing.
Drink tap water. There is no point in buying bottled water when drinkable water is available in all our homes. If you do not like the taste of tap water, there are many different water filtering systems that you can buy.
80% of the forests that were once flourishing on Earth are now destroyed. About 200 square km (about 125 square miles) of forest are cut down everyday, for an approximate total of 140 000 square km (87 000 miles) a year… 42% of that wood is used for making paper.
Buy recycled toilet paper. 27,000 trees are cut down EVERY DAY just to make toilet paper. That fact alone should convince you!
Subscribe to electronic billing services. Your credit card bill, your electricity bill, your telephone bill, all of them: there’s no point in having them on paper. Subscribe to electronic billing and help save tens of thousands of tons of paper.
Print all your documents on both sides of the paper you use. It won’t make the document any less readable and it will reduce your paper consumption by half.
Print only when necessary. Take the habit of proofing your documents on the screen and loose the habit of printing small emails, short documents, etc. In other words, think before you print.
Reuse. There are many ways you can reuse paper. Just be imaginative! Use your mail’s envelopes as little note pads, clean your windows with newspaper, create a unique gift wrappings, etc. The possibilities are endless!
Recycle. Producing paper is extremely polluting. Among other things, this industries uses up and pollutes dozens of liters of water. Recycling paper could help reduce by 35% the amount of water used to produce paper. So contribute and don’t throw your paper in the trash! Also, when given the chance, buy recycled paper.
Mireille is a travel, music and theater enthusiast. She wrote for the stage and television, and is now working as a freelance blogger for Via Rail, a Canadian railroad transporter helping travelers find the most unique Toronto packages. Via Rail sponsored the publication of this post.
Remember the song “Let’s Do It for Our Country” from Grease 2? It turns out such persuasive approaches really work (and for more than sexual conquest): Robert Long at The New Republic points to a few studies showing that conservatives are more likely to recycle when such activity is tied to values like patriotism.
That’s interesting, but what I really enjoyed in his post were past efforts to tie waste collection and reuse to national pride. For instance, during World War II, paper recycling was portrayed as key to defeating Hitler:
The Office of War Information and Public Relations also encouraged scrap metal recycling as part of the war in the Pacific (warning: lots of racism here):
I don’t know how well these appeals worked then, but the studies Long cites suggests that this may have been a smart approach… and could still work.
Know of other campaigns that appealed to nationalism in order to encourage recycling or other “green” behavior? Share them with us…. I’m fascinated!
By Tory Field and Beverly Bell
Part 14 of the Harvesting Justice series
As Wendy’s shareholders convene their annual meeting in New York, farm workers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) are calling on the remaining, hold-out, major fast food corporation to commit to workers’ rights and fair wages. On Saturday, May 18th, farm workers and their allies will gather in Manhattan’s Union Square (14th St.) at 2pm for a rally and march to a nearby Wendy’s.
“The tomato industry is an enormous industry. First we have to move this giant because if we don’t move the biggest one, the little ones aren’t going to move either,” said Lucas Benitez, co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a Florida-based organization of farm workers.
For most tomato pickers in the US, a bucket brings in 50 cents, a piece rate that has remained virtually unchanged for more than 30 years. Because the rate is set so low, a worker has to pick more than two and a quarter tons of tomatoes per day – the weight of a young elephant – to make the minimum wage.
Until 2005, no restaurant or grocery chain had ever taken responsibility for the fact that its profits played a role in creating such deplorable conditions and wages. When gross mistreatment of workers periodically made its way into the public eye, if anyone at all took the rap, it was the crew leader who managed the workers. Corporations who reaped the profits remained untouched. In this way, the system had been protected against any real change.
The CIW is transforming all of this. In 2005, after a four-year boycott against Taco Bell, CIW won its first major victory when Taco Bell’s parent corporation, Yum! Brands, agreed to pay a penny more per pound for their tomatoes. If paid by all major buyers, this seemingly small increase would nearly double farmworker wages.
“Labor is such a small percentage of the overall cost of getting food out from the field to the table,” Greg Asbed, another CIW co-founder, told us. “Farm labor wages could be increased 100% and the consumer wouldn’t even notice the difference. We call it the ‘reverse princess and the pea principle’: change can be felt at the bottom of the food industry with an imperceptible change at the top.”
The trick to changing the industry, Asbed said, “lies, first of all, in combating the billions [in advertising] that are spent against any kind of meaningful consumer thought. And, second of all, in combating the natural instinct of the consumer to be self-oriented. Consciousness is the first necessary component for change. That’s what will create new consumer decisions. And those new consumer decisions will force corporations at the public end of the industry to change their decisions. And those corporations are so powerful that when they start changing decisions, the supply chain beneath them changes, too.”
CIW has won similar agreements with Yum! Brands (the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s, and A&W), Burger King, McDonald’s, Chipotle, and Subway. Beyond fast food chains, the CIW has convinced the natural grocery-store giants Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, and the food-service companies Bon Appetit, Compass Group, Aramark, and Sodexo, to sign similar agreements. In 2010, the Coalition won a commitment from the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, which includes 90% of the state’s tomato growers, to pass along the penny-per-pound bonus to farmworkers. Workers picking for farms that sell to participating retail companies receive the penny per pound bonus as a line item in their weekly paycheck. Since 2011, due to these agreements, more than $10 million have flowed from buyers, through farmers, into workers’ paychecks.
Beyond increasing wages, the contracts require companies to sign onto the Fair Food Program, governed by a Code of Conduct. In each of these agreements, CIW actively participates in upholding the code, monitoring and reporting working conditions at farms, and conducting worker-to-worker education sessions on the farms on company time.
Melody Gonzalez, a former organizer with the Student/Farmworker Alliance, said, “Yes, pesticides are a big problem, health care is too, but at the root of this is the imbalance of power. The challenge is to create and enforce standards for workers that don’t depend on the largesse of particular growers.”
CIW members hope that soon all tomato pickers throughout the country will have greater rights and wages, and then all agricultural workers, with the establishment of an industry-wide standard.
The Coalition is also determined to put an end to modern-day slavery among farmworkers. (Since 1997, in Florida alone, the federal government has won seven criminal prosecutions for farmworker slavery involving more than 1,000 workers.) In 2010, together with allies from the Student/Farmworker Alliance, Interfaith Action, and Just Harvest, they created the traveling Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum out of a cargo truck similar to one in which workers had been locked and kept in slavery two years prior. The Fair Food Program directly aids in the elimination of slavery from the industry by creating a zero-tolerance policy and market consequences for growers on whose property such abuses occur.
Gerardo Reyes, a CIW organizer, said, “Paulo Coelho said, ‘The world lies in the hands of those who have the courage to dream and who take the risk of living out their dreams.’ Our dream is that we no longer be considered second- or third-class citizens, tools which can just be thrown away after they are used. We dream of receiving the respect that human beings merit. We dream of the possibility to maintain our families with dignity, and to offer them the future that has been denied us for so long. We’re taking steps on the road that will open doors to workers in many industries, where the economic power of a few does not determine how a person will live his or her life, where money doesn’t determine if a person has more or less worth.
“Our dream will be realized when we have a just agriculture system, one that doesn’t step on the rights of the workers, where they are recognized as one of the most important parts of the industry.
“For the consumers, we hope to see a day in which, when one says ‘farm worker,’ the word won’t be associated with powerlessness, voicelessness, inability to define one’s own destiny. Our dream is that when consumers think of who farm workers are, they understand that we have taken up our pens to write our own history.
“We will continue dreaming and we will continue working together to realize our dreams. We have the notebook of destiny in our hands, and we’re writing it today.”
For updates on the Wendy’s action in New York City, check out the event’s Facebook page.
Copyleft Other Worlds. You may reprint this article in whole or in part. Please credit any text or original research you use to Tory Field and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.
If you’ve ever read articles on Sustainablog before (or other sites like this one), Google probably knows that you’re interested in sustainability, and therefore, you’ve probably seen ads in your sidebar for green masters’ programs. The rise of so-called “green MBA” programs is a welcome addition to the business landscape. The “jobs vs. the environment” debate is over (both won, since they seemed to have negotiated a merger), and it’s pretty clear that business, in general, is on board with sustainability.
As a professor in an MBA program, I can tell you that the demographic makeup of my classes differ greatly from those of the courses I took when doing my schooling (a Master’s in Conservation Biology). We have high heels, lots of makeup, and high-end fashion. How was it that the folks interested in green have changed so substantially over such a short period of time? I’d argue it’s the result of many factors, but two in particular stand out.
First, is Life Cycle Analysis. We’ve covered LCA here on Sustainablog before, looking at the life cycle analysis of Amazon’s kindle versus paper books. The LCA provides something that the environmental movement largely failed to deliver: apples-to-apples data that help managers make very straightforward decisions incorporating the entire life cycle of products they design. It’s not that the environmental movement wasn’t closely aligned with science–it always has been strongly founded in science. The difference is that the LCA, when done right (per the ISO 14000 series standards), has standardized the science of sustainability, giving clear and relevant data that helps businesspeople create products that are more sustainable, healthier, AND that cut costs, reduce risks, and create new markets.
The second is Return on Investment, or ROI. The concept is pretty straightforward. If a project costs X up front, saves you Y over its useful life, then your return on investment is positive if Y is greater than X. (To actually calculate a ROI for a sustainability project, take the savings over the life of the project, subtract the cost, then divide that result by the cost. This will give you what you’re probably used to seeing, a % ROI).
But the bottom line is that ROI for sustainability has been getting better and better:
The list goes on…but the bottom line is that, as the cost of unsustainable products like plastic, oil, gas, and coal continue to rise, projects with positive environmental effects are now having better and better ROIs. (and that doesn’t even include the externalized costs of dirtier products, like coal, which would cost 3x what wind power costs if it had to pay for all the public health problems it causes).
For those hoping to reduce the amount of money they’re losing every month to utility bills, the ROI for house and home projects is exceptionally good. Check out the Department of Energy’s Energy Saver’s Guide for some great tips, but you may also want to check out this really cool, interactive website that showcases ROI for a variety of sustainability projects in your home. Hover over any of the project ideas and you’ll see how much projects typically cost up front, what the average savings are, and what the ROI is. Here’s a screenshot.
The bottom line has become the triple bottom line, and the result is more sustainable behavior by individuals and companies. We at Sustainablog look forward to helping you uncover many more great ways to stop losing hard-earned money every month on your utilities, and whether you care about polar bears and the effects of global warming or not, you’ll still be doing something good. Win, win, win, right?
About the author: Scott Cooney is a professor of sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the founder of Pono Home, a green home consulting service headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Infographic produced by Safestyle UK, who also sponsored the publication of this post.